Two years have come and gone, and I feel like that’s enough time to accept the fact that the beloved Galaxy Note series is no more – at least in name. Much like its predecessor, the newly launched Galaxy S23 Ultra continues to succeed the now-defunct Samsung line-up in spirit, inheriting all of the best features while at the same time introducing even newer ones.
But first things first, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, the series’ top-end variant does resemble last year’s model almost uncannily. However, there are some changes in terms of aesthetics, albeit just slightly. These include increased screen real estate despite maintaining the 6.8-inch display size, improved ergonomics, and a repositioned rear camera arrangement in order to accommodate newer imaging hardware.
Being accustomed to mid-sized phones, I do become very wary when handling larger phones – even more with the Ultra. This is due to the phone’s massive size and screen-to-body ratio which, for better or worse, encourages me to give it extra care whenever I’m using it. Granted, it does come with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection, but I would still recommend using the phone with a case for an assured peace of mind. That being said, I should also mention that there’s no silicone case included in the packaging, so you will need to get one separately – be it directly from Samsung, or a third-party manufacturer.
In terms of day-to-day functionality, the Galaxy S23 Ultra works majorly as intended, especially for someone who is in my line of work. Taking down notes is a breeze, as all I need to do is take out the integrated S-Pen and effortlessly write away on the phone’s display – even via its lockscreen. On that note (no pun intended), all of the stylus-based features from last year’s model make a return, with newer tools such as handwriting-to-text compatibility expanded to certain Google apps like Search and Youtube.
And as pointed out in my hands-on with the standard and Plus variants, all three models from the Galaxy S23 series pack the same custom-built Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy chipset. With this, you can rest assured that the Ultra model too can churn out the same high level of performance – or even better, thanks to its larger and improved internal vapour cooling chamber.
Meanwhile, the Ultra comes with the same 5,000 mAh battery capacity as its predecessor, which is pretty standard and nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, you can expect a long usage life that could go on for days, especially if you’re not a heavy user. As for charging, it retains the same 45 W fast charging, as well as 15 W wireless and 4.5 power sharing capabilities. And just in case you’re wondering, the phone (as well as its siblings) does not come with a charging brick in the box.
Next up, there’s the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s rear triple cameras, which are undeniably its second major highlight. This is helmed by Samsung’s own ISOCELL HP1 200 MP shooter, which is utilised via the default and high definition (50 MP and 200 MP) modes – the latter of which uses the full width of the sensor to snap photos in the highest resolution. Quality-wise, both modes offer impressive results, though the latter will definitely net you with the best detail and quality. However, keep in mind that taking detailed closeup shots is best done with the default mode, as the high definition ones struggle to focus on nearby objects.
Then we have the two 10 MP telephotos cameras, where one of which is capable of 3x optical zoom, while the other can go up to 10X optical and all the way up to 100X digitally. Personally, as someone who often snaps photos during events, I highly appreciate both of these. Reason being that their optical zooming capabilities allow for faraway subjects to be captured in remarkable detail, even in low light conditions.
And thanks to built-in optical image stabilisation (OIS), you need not worry about having steady arms in order to take both photos and videos. For the latter, Samsung has also included an improved Super Steady function that further removes even the roughest bumps and shakes from recorded footage. However, keep in mind that activating the feature will result in reduced quality regardless of which resolution you choose to shoot your videos in. Speaking of which, the highest resolution you can record movies on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and its siblings are at 8K, with a frame rate of 30 fps.
Besides that, features such as Director’s View, Single Take, Hyperlapse and more make a return on the S23 series, though the impressive Expert Raw mode is only available as a separate download. Among all of these, Samsung has greatly improved on Portrait Mode, which can now generate even more natural looking depth-of-field and bokeh effects, as well as allowing you to choose between different filters after snapping a photo with it.
As one of the first few flagship devices now available in the market, the top-end Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is definitely looking to be a solid contender. As it stands, it’s still the only smartphone to feature multiple exclusives that can’t be found on other devices, including its custom-tuned Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset and Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 protection for its display. And much like its predecessor, it is still the only flagship device that offers an integrated stylus, as well as a unique and optimised phablet experience like no other.
To recap, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is set to arrive in Malaysia on 24 February and will retail at a starting price of RM 5,699. Don’t forget to use our exclusive LWGS23R promo code to get RM 200 off your purchase if you are planning to pick it up through the Samsung Online Store.
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